In Los Angeles, an image for our times

August 13, 1999|By Arnold Rosenfeld

TELEVISION digs emotion. So the enduring image of the shootings at a suburban Los Angeles Jewish center will be that of little kids holding hands, fleeing the gunman who wanted to shoot them down like dogs. It is an image for our strange, dislocated times. A morbid, self-perpetuating ritual has been devised for such occasions: Anguished witnesses. Anguished relatives. Eloquent and inarticulate grief. Memorial services. Prayers for the dead and dying. Calls for tougher gun laws. Statements that guns don't kill people. Demands for more guns so we can defend ourselves. Calls for the enforcement of laws already on the books. Wistful speculation that the National Rifle Association is through. Legislation proposed. Legislation defeated. NRA triumphant. Another shooting. Repeat the above.

Little kids walking hand in hand, scarcely understanding that they are the hunted. Maybe if the 68-year-old receptionist at the center had been trained and armed, she could have rolled to the floor and cut this jerk down before he opened up. To think that we saw it on Mulberry Street.

Arnold Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief of Cox Newspapers. His e-mail address: arnold.rosenfeld@cox.com.

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